Thursday, 13 December 2012

Orthodox perspective on the Ordination of Women

In recent decades, some Protestant denominations have undergone heavy fighting over the question of whether women should be ordained. A woman holding a worship service or preaching was once so rare that the 18th century English author, Samuel Johnson, could say: “a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

This controversy hasn't gained a high profile in the Orthodox Church, probably due to our way of approaching such issues: if the early church was in agreement on a matter, if that consensus continued unbroken over the centuries, then that seems to be the Holy Spirit’s leading. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). It’s not always easy to discern a clear consensus, but there’s no problem here. For 20 centuries, the Orthodox Church has not ordained women priests.

That doesn't mean there weren't women preachers, though. I've preached at worship services in Orthodox churches, myself.

If that sounds like an inconsistency, it’s because we understand the purpose of ordination differently than many Protestants do. For us, it has to do primarily with setting someone aside to be a minister of the sacraments. Non-sacramental ministry, such as preaching, is open to non-ordained people, as long as they are continuing in the faith and worship of the Orthodox Church, and in obedience to a spiritual father or confessor.

And when answering questions about the Church’s practice, instead of searching the records for resolutions that were passed at conventions, we look at what the Church has actually done. So if the question is, Can a woman be a missionary evangelist, and preach the gospel in foreign lands? We can say yes, because we see the example of St. Nina of Georgia. She was just a young girl, 14 years old, when she was abducted and carried as a slave into the nation of Georgia. But there she had an opportunity to speak to the Queen about saving faith, and then the king, and eventually the whole nation was baptized. So, yes, a woman can preach, and prepare people for baptism (St. Nina brought in a priest to accompany her to actually perform the baptisms), and pave the way for churches to be founded.

Many questions about women’s ministries can be answered that way, by looking at what Orthodox women have actually done. Can a woman be a theologian and liturgist? Yes, there’s St. Cassiane. Can she be an apologist and debater, presenting the Christian faith against opponents? Yes, St. Catherine, St. Perpetua, and others were brilliant debaters.

Here’s a toughie: can a woman exercise authority over both men and women, and rule an entire nation? Can a woman call a council that establishes church doctrine? Yes, we honor the valiant accomplishments of Empress St. Theodora. And there are many women who are called “Equal to the Apostles,” including St. Mary Magdalene, St. Helen, and St. Junia.

In the Orthodox church, women have exercised a vast range of ministries. A glance through history shows that an Orthodox woman can be a healer, a missionary, a preacher, a teacher, an evangelist, a spiritual mother, a church-planter, a miracle-worker, an iconographer, a hymnographer, a pastoral counselor, a debater, a writer of prayers and theology, a martyr, or a fool-for-Christ—and she doesn't need to get a clerical collar first.

I don’t mind, then, if Protestant denominations want to ordain women. Many times, this just means allowing Protestant women to do things that Orthodox women have always done. In our church, holy women do virtually everything men do, except stand at the altar. That leaves them rest of the world, which is where most of God’s work gets done.

Extract from:  Women's Ordination By Frederica Matthewes-Green (see here for full article) 

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Marriage of gay and lesbian couples in Church


As someone who genuinely considered leaving the Church if he was forced to celebrate the marriage of gay or lesbian couples in church I was a little relieved to hear that the Government is granting my denomination exemption from the legislation. However I am still very, very disturbed to hear that the Government is still committed to going ahead with redefining marriage which I believe to be a catastrophic mistake. We are treading on dangerous ground and i believe we will live to regret it.

I include here the the Bishop of Leicester's response in the Lord's to the news that the Government will be pressing ahead with this:

"Those of us on these benches entirely share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, that we are all equal in the eyes of God. That is why many of us supported civil partnerships as we believed that the rights and obligations that flow to those who wish to formally mark and celebrate their commitment to each other should not be denied to people simply because of their sexuality.

"However, my Lords, civil partnerships, while conferring virtually the same legal benefits, are not the same as marriage. Marriage is not the property of the Government nor is it the property of the Church; and while the forms and legalities around marriage have evolved over time, as the noble lady minister has pointed out, one fundamental feature has remained the same throughout: that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, a social institution that pre-dates both Church and State and has been the glue that has bound countless successive societies together.

"Does the Minister recognise that our concern here is not primarily for religious conscience or the protection of the Church of England's position, but rather a more fundamental concern for stable communities? Can the Minister assure us that teachers for example in Church schools will not be disciplined for upholding traditional religious teachings? Can the Minister assure this House in spite of the accelerated pace of this process, proper time, even over a Christmas holiday, will be given for adequate consultation with the Church of England's Canon lawyers on the legislative drafting. Can the Minister assure us that the great majority of members of the Church of England and other faiths will not be labelled as prejudicial to gay people for taking a traditional stand, and perhaps most troubling my Lords is the fact that the Government and Opposition have together in their proceeding with this Measure led to division, not only within the country where polls consistently show half the population against this change, but also between the political class and the vast majority of practicing religious people. What plans does the Government have for working towards a degree of consensus on this matter?"

Church of England comments on 2011 Census

The Church of England today welcomed the publication of the latest Census figures which confirmed that Christianity remains the largest religion in England in 2011, with 31.5 million people (59.4 per cent of the population) self-identifying as Christians.

"These results confirm that we remain a faithful nation," said the Rev Arun Arora, Director of Communications for the Archbishop's Council. "England remains a country where the majority of the nation actively identifies the role that faith plays in their life. Clearly we welcome the fact that Christianity remains the most populous faith in England - with six in ten people identifying themselves as Christian. When all faiths are taken together, people of faith account for two-thirds of the nation - two in every three people identify themselves as having a faith.

"Obviously the fall in those choosing to identify themselves as Christians is a challenge. We need to look closely at the fuller figures published next year and to reflect on what these tell us. One of the reasons may well be fewer people identifying as "Cultural Christians" i.e. those who have no active involvement with churches and who may previously have identified as Christian for cultural or historical reasons. They indicate a changing pattern of religious life in which traditional or inherited identities are less taken for granted than they used to be."

"The work of the Church of England is not limited to those who declare Christian affiliation. As a Church we continue to serve people of all faiths and none, in parishes, schools, community projects and through the 23.2 million hours voluntary work that churchgoers contribute outside their local church to the local community," said Arun Arora.

"In a speech earlier this year, Her Majesty the Queen spoke of the Church of England's 'duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country'. The figures released today show that the Church's duty concerns the overwhelming majority of people in England.

"The death of Christian England has been greatly exaggerated. Despite a decade of nay saying and campaigning by atheist commentators and groups, six out of ten people in England self-identify as Christians, a figure which rises to more than two-thirds when including people identifying with faith as a whole.

"During the past decade alone the C of E has baptized an average of 2,500 people a week - with a 40% increase in adult baptisms - conducted more than 100 weddings a week, celebrated the ordination of more than 5,000 new priests and maintained more than 16,000 parish church buildings. While 253 churches closed over the past decade, 1,000 new congregations were started through the Fresh Expressions initiative.

"Today's figures pose questions - not least for most of the London based national media - about whether their perceptions and reporting of faith accurately reflect the reality of a faithful nation, especially when considering the figures in the North East and North West of the country.

"Doubtless, campaigning atheist organisations will attempt to minimize the significance of the majority figures for faith and Christianity. In fact, these figures draw attention to the free ride that had been given to these bodies whose total membership would barely fill half of Old Trafford. For instance there are an estimated 28,000 members of British Humanist Association - the same membership as Union of Catholic Mothers, whilst the National Secular Society has an estimated 5,000 - the same as the British Sausage Appreciation Society."

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Who is the real father Christmas?

Not a blog so much as a recommended website about St. Nicholas who is apparently one of the world's most popular saints. What is remarkable about this man is the physical resemblance between him and the modern phenomenon of Father Christmas or Santa Claus, an American invention. Looking at some of the icons of Saint Nicholas he is depicted wearing a red chasuble and a white beard. Sound familiar? What's more he is well known for his anonymous generosity, giving away some of his wealth to help a starving family! There was even one occasion where he was seen in two places at one time! It's the twilight zone!!

Anyhow we need to backdate Santa and relocate him into the fourth century when the original was a Bishop of Myra, one of the early attendees at Nicea in 325 AD. He was truly a remarkable man known for his generosity, gentleness and love of people. He was declared a saint by popular opinion and many miracles were associated with him in his life and after.

For further information here is the website: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/home/ It makes interesting reading and a good way of further reclaiming Christmas and grounding it in Christian teaching.

We have hope

18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the cre...